Posts Tagged ‘Easton Harriers’

. . . the Fitzwilliam case. This will be my last comment on the saga so let’s crack on.

It would appear that there will be no appeal. I’d held off commenting further and releasing the footage to the general public just on the off chance that an appeal would be forthcoming even thought the stated time limit for any appeal had long since past. Just for the point of clarity the law states:

“52.12 – 2(b) where the court makes no such direction, and subject to the specific provision about time limits in rules 52.8 to 52.11 and Practice Direction 52D, 21 days after the date of the decision of the lower court which the appellant wishes to appeal.”

As the case was heard back in April I think I can now safely assume it’s all done and dusted. As I commented before there was plenty of noise coming from Tim Bonner of the so-called Countryside Alliance about appealing but it was very much left in the hands of the Huntsman George Adams who now retried, would gain little from another court appearance except perhaps increasing the chance of a heart attack.

The ramifications of this conviction in the wider hunting community may already be starting to take effect. A post by Norfolk/Suffolk Hunt Sabs regarding the Easton Harriers highlighted the fact they were looking into purchasing a bird of prey in an effort to circumnavigate the law and allow them to keep killing our wildlife illegally. However these efforts appear to have been shelved once they realised that this exemption would no longer give them a suitable alibi. One has to wonder how many other hunts which have purchased birds are now reconsidering their options?

At the Trial

As part of my statement and evidence during the trial I submitted a detailed map I created using an aerial photograph and noted places where footage was taken and the approximate path of all concerned. While not 100% accurate (these thing can never be so) it was accepted by the court and used by the judge, the prosecution and the defence as a point of reference for the proceedings. This was actually quite an important aspect and it was never challenged by the defence in any way (see below).

map

Throughout the trial the defence’s main avenue of attack appeared to be based on 3 aspects.

(1) John Mease never had the opportunity to release the bird due to environmental restrictions (the fox was never in the open for sufficient time for a release).

(2) Sabs had turned the fox back into the hounds.

(3) To discredit the main witness (me) regarding the use of a hunting horn.

Defence Failures

(1) Defence barrister Stephen Welford put in a huge effort to clear Mease, something which he achieved however as described in an previous blog post this was due to the technicalities in the law and the control of the hounds and not through any of his own efforts. Under examination it became clear that Mease had claimed in his original statement that the fox had run in the clear for 120 metres and this should have been enough for him to release the bird if he wished to. However he also stated that he would never release the bird on grounds of safety if others were present, this would include members of the public, dog walkers and sabs. Once this was accepted to be the case then they would have to cease any and all actions in the pursuit of the quarry, in this case the fox the hounds would kill a short time later.

(2) This claim seems to be pretty standard tool in the defence’s box of dirty tricks. The problem in this case was once again the video evidence supplied. Even the video supplied by Mease himself undermined their own claims. Welford attempted to suggest on multiple occasions that sabs were responsible for the death of the fox due to their location and intervention. Our interaction was roughly as follows:

SW – “Do you accept that the fox was killed due to your actions?”

AA – “I do not.”

SW – “Do you accept that your presence lead to the hounds killing the fox in the field where you were located and that in fact you turned the fox into the hounds?”

AA – “I do not – further to that the video speaks for itself. Look at the video evidence. At the point where the hounds are killing the fox the only persons present at that location (a different field from my location) are riding horses and wearing red hunting jackets”.

(3) Another underhand attempt at discrediting me as a witness was the claim that I was using a hunting horn. Horns can certainly be heard on the video but it certainly wasn’t I who was using one. Welford asked the question several times;

“Did you have in your possession a horn and use it at any time?”

My answer was clear – “No, I didn’t have a horn on that day”.

Welford then fast forwarded the video to a point after the kill and froze the image. The image showed a horn in my hand. Taken out of context this would appear to show me as being dishonest in the court. This was however, of no concern to me. Even though Welford thought he’d caught me out I knew where he was going with this and was ready with an explanation.

I asked the court to rewind the video to another point and then play again. During the scuffle after the hounds had killed the fox you can clearly see me pick up a horn which had been dropped on the ground. Where this came from I still have no idea, however it proved to the court that prior to the kill I wasn’t in possession of a hunting horn. I have to admit to feeling quite smug over that one. For someone clearly being paid a lot of money Welford had failed completely and the expression on his face said enough.

Watch the video and draw your own conclusions. I have edited the end a little as the main points relative to the case are prior to the death of the fox and the scuffle over the body is largely irrelevant. One final point is the claim that Adams, at no point saw the fox. This seems somewhat unlikely given it ran right past him and he admitted to hunting this area several times in a season and would know where any likely quarry will run.

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I’ve written many times in the past about police inactivity with regards to hunting with hounds and why I believe, in many cases they are reluctant to effectively police it. However sometimes certain cases stand out way beyond the norm and the bias shown simply cannot be attributed to ignorance, lack of resources or reluctance due to limited chance of prosecution.

dead hare.jpg

A beautiful animal, murdered for fun

The Easton Harriers are a pack which operate in East Suffolk. For those that don’t know Harrier packs will hunt both foxes and hares. They will given the chance, hunt pretty much anything that moves and will offer “sport”. Our colleagues over at Norfolk/Suffolk Hunt Saboteurs have reported over the last few week that they have killed regularly. As you can see from the pictures it’s a gruesome sight and how anyone can take delight in this is simply beyond my comprehension. But hunts killing animals is nothing new, the real problem here is the complete inaction by the local police force.

hare hunter.jpg

The hunt claimed this was a very large rabbit

According to reports police have been present in at least one of the occasions where the illegal killing of a mammal was reported however nothing at all has been done. No statements were taken and no investigation is under way. These aren’t isolated incidents and in an age of social media and the instant proliferation of information there is no reason to believe that the police aren’t be aware of what has transpired and the situation at large. I’m fairly certain that had these crimes been perpetrated by a certain demographic of society, working from say, the back of a van with a few of their mates and using a couple of sight hounds like Lurchers or Greyhounds then the police would have been all over them like a tramp on hot chips. Have a troll through police web sites and their rural commitments especially regarding wildlife crime, poaching or coursing will always get a mention but rarely anything regarding organised hunts.

hounds-dead-hare

The hounds devour what’s left of another hare

It would seem however that the Suffolk police are especially good at turning a blind eye so we have to ask ourselves why this is the case. Is there a connection to the hunt at a senior level within the Suffolk force? Are officers on the ground under orders not to police the hunt and take action regardless of the evidence? Is there an institutionalised prejudice of saboteurs with their ranks? Do they simply not care the hunting act is being openly flouted before their very eyes? More importantly as public servants who should act on our behalf to uphold the law what are we going to do about it and who is to be held to account for this gross injustice?

Please contact Chief Constable Gareth Wilson of Suffolk at Helen.griffin@suffolk.pnn.police.uk (Executive Assistant) and perhaps if you get no joy there try Tim Passmore, Suffolk’s PCC: spcc@suffolk.pnn.police.uk and see if you can get any answers to the questions posed above.

The British public have a voice, let’s make sure it gets heard so we can get these situations changed for the better.